Questions of Travel

“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

The poet Elizabeth Bishop looks at travel from both sides, celebrating the chance to encounter the world for ourselves, experience its wonders first hand and broaden our horizons, yet questioning whether so many tourists miss the whole point when they travel.  She wonders if we are too wrapped up in ticking off the guidebook listed sights to really immerse ourselves in the new world and new culture we have journeyed to.

What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?

And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

I love the clever debate she presents her reader with.  She challenges us to engage as she bombards us with rhetorical questions and wonderful images painted by the pen of a forensic observer. And yet her own opinion appears to be that it “would be a pity” not to ponder other parts of the world for ourselves and that travel is indeed a worthy undertaking.  I very much agree and only wish I had more time and more money to indulge my wanderlust.

And so as in a pretty predictable move for my husband’s birthday gift (it was yesterday) I was splurging on hotel rooms not gifts that come in a box, wrapped up with a pretty bow. There are two destinations, for two separate weekend breaks – Edinburgh and Belfast.  And now the planning begins. And I really am a planner when it comes to travel.

I love new places – people watching, sipping coffee, wandering in and out of independent shops, listening to new accents and glimpsing iconic sights. But I like to feel a new city got a fair chance to impress and lure me back and so I tend to do my research.  On holiday, you pay to eat out at least twice in the day, and I hate paying for bad food, so I read a lot.  I list restaurants that are recommended by locals in different areas so wherever we end up when hunger strikes, there is a good chance of being close to a great place. I reserve tables “just in case”, I can always cancel them later. I know exactly where to find the best cup of coffee and where the cool kids are hanging out for pre-dinner cocktails.  If there is a great independent bookshop or quirky interiors store, it will likely be listed in my travel notebook.  Not being one for museums and galleries, guidebooks are of limited usefulness to me and my itinerary planning definitely goes a layer deeper, but I read them nonetheless.

And so I have started my Edinburgh Weekend Travel Itinerary – although I am still in the pre-planning stage.

The hotel, as mentioned, is booked. Usually I like small quirky hotels, with some individuality and a sense of soul. However this was a gift for my husband who prioritises location, a flat-screen tv with lots of sport and rooms that feel spacious.  So in a major compromise move for me (although very influenced by extremely positive reviews and the fact that they serve afternoon tea with gin cocktails), I booked the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa in Festival Square.

And all that remains is to consider how to fill the days… so I got to reading over a delicious lunch in the aptly named Comfy Cafe here in Roscommon.

As we were cooking a birthday dinner at home later, we kept things light and delicious with soup and salads. Both were fresh and full of flavour and the bread home baked – happy faces all round.

Then, as it was a special occasion, we retired  to our favourite watering hole, JJ Harlows, for a crisp cool white wine, a craft beer and some further relaxed researching.  There’s a great wine list, good wifi and a blazing fire – what’s not to love?


Happily, it turns out that lots of bloggers have visited the Scottish capital and shared their experiences in order to make ours better.  So here’s what I bookmarked so far…

Blog Posts from Visitors to the City

Edinburgh bloggers

Although I have not started to seriously consider my Belfast itinerary yet, and it may be a bit busy as my husband is presenting at a conference in Queens, I was still thrilled to find that the NYT 36 Hours (a real favourite of mine) featured it just last week.  You can read it here.

And so my weekend is passing in a haze of travel planning bliss, sprinkled with some lovely meals out (given the aforementioned birthday), making it my perfect form of relaxation. I hope your weekend is bringing similar pleasure wherever you are or however you choose to spend it xo


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